The Movie Diary

The gift that keeps on giving

By Dom Cioffi

I just may be the luckiest man in the world…

It started out as a normal Saturday morning with some fresh coffee, the morning news, a little Internet browsing and a quick peruse through my email.

I like to utilize my extra time on the weekend to look back through the previous week’s email to weed out the junk, file any important correspondences and reply to anyone I’ve left hanging.

It was during this organizational session that I noticed a strange email from a Prince Kufour Otumfuo, who claimed to be the elder son of the late King Otumfuo Opokuware II of Ghana. I have never received an official royal correspondence so I gave his words my full and immediate attention.

The prince explained that his father had recently passed, and as is the custom with their traditional African rites, he had been named the next successor and sole beneficiary of his father’s estate.

I felt bad that the prince had just lost his father, but reveled in his good fortune to be named the sole beneficiary of a kingly estate.

He then listed a large number of diamonds and gold that his father was in possession of.

Now, I’m not an expert in this area, but it sure looked like a heaping load of valuable assets to me – thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of precious gems and bullion.

The prince then went on to tell me how he was frustrated with several untrustworthy relatives who were trying to commandeer his birthright by insisting on a massive division of wealth – none of which they had an official claim to.

I could tell the prince was frustrated as I, too, felt an aversion to these conniving relatives. Even in death some people only see dollar signs!

However, it was the next part of the email where things got really interesting.

The prince (with the help of his uncle who was a secretary in their local government), worked out a plan to transfer the gold and diamonds to a securities and finance firm who would then make some or all of it available to me (or any buyers I could find) at an astonishingly reduced rate!

I couldn’t believe my good fortune! To think that an African prince had somehow picked me to help him in this extraordinary transaction that would make me gloriously rich while also alleviating all his family anxieties – I must be truly blessed.

Apparently all I had to do was open a personal banking account and send the prince some financial information and we would be in business. Once I purchased the gold and diamonds, he would then send me the raw materials, which I could later sell for a tremendous profit.

He closed his email by telling me how much he trusted me and how he knew I would have compassion for his situation. (It’s amazing how some people can know you so well without ever having met you!)

So… does that scenario sound too good to be true?

Of course it does, but that email (which I actually received) and many more like it actually dupe people around the world into revealing personal information that is eventually used to bilk them out of their savings.

Given the nature of these ridiculous claims, how is this possible? Well, apparently the creators of these scams actually make them wildly unlikely on purpose because it immediately weeds out everyone but the most gullible respondents.

Scamming people takes a lot of energy (once someone responds there is generally weeks of back and forth in order to instill trust and an increased level of believability) so they are careful not to waste their time with anyone who’s going to do serious fact-checking or ask too many prying questions.

After I had a good chuckle over the complete insanity of this scammer’s request, I decided to do a little research to see how many people actually buy into this crap. And I was amazed to discover that in one recent year, these fraudulent scams managed to bilk $9.3 billion out of unwitting victims around the world. And what’s even more amazing is that the business model is growing at a 5 percent rate each year (since more people in developing countries are getting connected to the Internet).

The moral of the story: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

This week’s film, “The Gift,” also features a scenario that sounds too good to be true – and in this case it definitely is!

Starring Jason Bateman as a successful businessman who moves back to his childhood hometown, “The Gift” does everything possible to make the viewer squirm in their seat. This is a true psychological thriller and the best film of its type since Ben Affleck’s “Gone Girl.”

I would not hesitate in making this your next movie choice, especially if you revel in intelligently written storylines that force you to consider how you might react in the same situation.

A highly anxious “A-” for “The Gift.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at

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